In her Oscar acceptance speech last night, Best Actress winner Frances McDormand endorsed “inclusion riders.” I’m not an entertainment-law specialist, but apparently this is a proviso that top actors and actresses are being urged to stick into their contracts which demand “diversity” in the hiring of other employees by the employer.
Putting aside whether this is a good idea artistically and morally, I want to point out here that there can be legal problems with this. The devil is in the details, but just to give you the idea: Suppose that a top salesman for a company said that he’ll continue to work there only if no African Americans are hired. The employer agreeing to such condition would clearly be in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination by private employers.
And suppose that an actress says that she’ll do a picture only if the company making it agrees to hire according to racial, ethnic, and gender quotas. Well, if such quotas are illegal — and they are — then such an inclusion rider would be illegal, too.
On the other hand, if the inclusion rider demanded that the employer hire only those individuals best qualified, without regard to race, ethnicity, or sex, then there would be no legal problem. And that’s all anyone really wants, right? No?